Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary
"bottomless gulf, greatest depths," now chiefly poetic, c.1300, from Old French abisme (Modern French abîme), from Vulgar Latin *abyssimus (source of Spanish and Portuguese abismo), which represents either a superlative of Latin abyssus or a formation on analogy of Greek-derived words in -ismus; see abyss.
n. 1 (context archaic poetic English) hell; the infernal pit; the great deep; the primal chaos. (First attested between 1150 and 1350.) 2 (context now chiefly literary English) An abyss; a gulf, a chasm, a very deep hole. (First attested in the late 15th century.)
The Collaborative International Dictionary
Abysm \A*bysm"\, n. [OF. abisme; F. abime, LL. abyssimus, a
superl. of L. abyssus; Gr. ?. See Abyss.]
An abyss; a gulf. ``The abysm of hell.''
n. a bottomless gulf or pit; any unfathomable (or apparently unfathomable) cavity or chasm or void extending below (often used figuratively) [syn: abyss]
Usage examples of "abysm".
Then, as I playfully shook him and turned him around, I felt the strangling tendrils of a cancerous horror whose roots reached into illimitable pasts and fathomless abysms of the night that broods beyond time.
THE COSMIC CALENDAR What seest thou else In the dark backward and abysm of time?
That primal and interior something in man, in his soul’s abysms, coloring all, and, by exceptional fruitions, giving the last majesty to him -- something continually touch’d upon and attain’d by the old poems and ballads of feudalism, and often the principal foundation of them -- modern science and democracy appear to be endangering, perhaps eliminating.
Think on that, Unbeliever"-he invested the title with abysms of contempt-"if you require to know where you are.
Here, the questions exfoliated, so to speak, into innumerable enigmas, abyss opened at the bottom of abysm, and Marius could no longer bend over Jean Valjean without dizziness.